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1978: Songs of the Year

Home > Everywhere > Lists | Music | Performing Arts | Vintage and Retro
by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published August 11th 2020
Some surprising goodness from times gone by
It's been a while since I've done one of these, but this was a request from a regular reader (who happens to be a fan of Douglas Adams) who asked me for a playlist for his birthday. He turns 42. (Yes, there is a link between the two.) So, I put together a 1978 playlist, and he said I should make it another music of the year column.
1978, songs, rock, pop
Kristen Schaal was also born in 1978. No, she is not the friend in question.

Okay, so like a lot of years at that time, there were a lot of songs to choose from. I was 7 years old for most of the year, but my youngest sister had just been born the previous year and so I was allowed to listen to the radio to keep me quiet. That means 1978 was one of the first years I remember hearing the music of the year (so long as my dad wasn't home).

1978 was a weird year. We had disco at its height, punk was growing, hard rock was making a comeback, thanks to Grease 1950s stylings were back… it was an eclectic year. And I absorbed it all like a sponge.

Rules for my list:
1) One song per artist.
2) I have to like the song.
3) Studio recordings of songs; no live tracks.
4) No remixes of songs subsequently released in the 1980s and beyond.
5) The date of the first release, either album or as single. If the album was released in 1977 but the song was released as a single in 1978, the album was first, the song was released in 1977.
That's it.

Now, the honourable mentions. My goodness, there are a lot of them! Here goes. Deep breath: 'After The Rain' by The Angels; 'Baker Street' by Gerry Rafferty (really close); 'Beast Of Burden' by The Rolling Stones; 'Big Shot' by Billy Joel; 'Blame It On The Boogie' by The Jacksons; 'Born To Be Alive' by Patrick Hernandez; 'C'Mon, Aussie, C'Mon' by The Mojo Singers; 'Can't Stand Losing You' by The Police; 'Cominʹ Down' by The Angels; 'Copacabana (At The Copa) ' by Barry Manilow (yes, really); 'Da Ya Think I'm Sexy? ' by Rod Stewart; 'Das Model' by Kraftwerk; 'Davy's On The Road Again' by Manfred Mann's Earth Band (another close call); 'Don't Cry Out Loud' by Melissa Manchester; 'Down Among The Dead Men' by Flash And The Pan; 'Down In The Tube Station At Midnight' by The Jam; 'Dreadlock Holiday' by 10cc; 'Dust In The Wind' by Kansas; 'Flash Light' by Parliament; 'Follow You, Follow Me' by Genesis; 'Forever Autumn' by Jeff Wayne with Justin Hayward; 'Goodbye (Astrid Goodbye)' by Cold Chisel (another Chisel song made it instead); 'Greased Lightnin'' by John Travolta.
List two: 'Hanging On The Telephone' by Blondie; 'Heart Of Glass' by Blondie; 'Hey Lord, Donʹt Ask Me Questions' by Graham Parker and The Rumour; 'Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick' by Ian Dury & The Blockheads; 'Hold The Line' by Toto; 'Hollywood Nights' by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band; 'Hot Blooded' by Foreigner; 'How You Gonna See Me Now?' by Alice Cooper (so very close); 'I Wanna Be Sedated' by The Ramones; 'I Will Survive' by Gloria Gaynor; 'Instant Replay' by Dan Hartman; 'Is This Love?' by Bob Marley & The Wailers; 'Itʹs The Same Old Song' by KC & The Sunshine Band; 'Just What I Needed' by The Cars (another Cars song beat it); 'Lay Your Love On Me' by Racey; 'Life's Been Good' by Joe Walsh; 'Miss You' by The Rolling Stones; 'My Way' by Sid Vicious; 'New York Groove' by Ace Frehley; 'One Way Or Another' by Blondie; 'Picture This' by Blondie; 'Prove It All Night' by Bruce Springsteen; 'Public Image' by Public Image Ltd.
Third and final lot: 'Racing In The Street' by Bruce Springsteen; 'Rat Trap' by The Boomtown Rats; 'Rock Lobster' by The B-52's (really close); 'Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw' by Rose Tattoo; 'Roxanne' by The Police; 'Runnin' With The Devil' by Van Halen; 'Shout' by Otis Day & The Knights; 'So Many Ways' by John St. Peeters; 'Song For Guy' by Elton John; 'Still The Same' by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band; 'Surrender' by Cheap Trick; 'Tears On My Pillow' by Sha-Na-Na; 'Teenage Kicks' by The Undertones; 'The Eve Of The War' by Jeff Wayne (I felt bad leaving this one out); 'The Gambler' by Kenny Rogers (ditto for this one); 'The Nips Are Getting Bigger' by Mental As Anything; 'Those Magic Changes' by Sha-Na-Na (don't judge); 'We've Got Tonight' by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band; 'Who Are You? ' by The Who; 'Who Do You Love?' by George Thorogood & The Destroyers; 'Who Listens To The Radio? ' by The Sports; 'You Really Got Me' by Van Halen (another Van Halen song made the cut); 'Young Parisians' by Adam & The Ants.

Wow! That is already a list to die for. I am not sure how many of the songs he'll use, but he has them all… plus the twenty in the list proper.

I'll start with two instrumental tracks, some of the best instrumentals I own.

'Eruption' by Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen showing why he is considered one of the finest rock guitarists. This brief little flurry on the album is often extended to a long work-out live. And these can go on for a long, long time. Still, listening to the studio version is still. He is a wonderful guitarist. I don't know him as a person.

'Take It Off The Top' by The Dixie Dregs

Sad story: this one means something to me as I used it as my wrestling entrance music in my last ever match. I picked it because it is such a great piece of music. The classic-rock feel of it is so out of time in an era of punk and disco, but it is still one of the best instrumentals I have heard.

Now the other 18 tracks!

'Baby It's You' by Promises

People are probably looking at the honourable mentions list, then at this song, then asking if I'm crazy. No. I love this song. The female vocals soaring in the chorus, the drums signalling the chorus, the very different verses… this is such a great scream-along track. Shame that the band only lasted a couple of years.

'Because The Night' by Patti Smith Group

Written by Bruce Springsteen (with amazing lyrics), this song is just magnificent, driven along by a piano and Smith's great vocals. I remember hearing this on the radio a fair bit, so it must have made an impact. And I think Smith's version is better than the version Springsteen eventually released.

'Driver's Seat' by Sniff 'n' the Tears

Another track that I feel I might be one of the few to really like, but I just do. It has the feel that would become more predominant in the 1980s, but there is something about it that just is different – I think it's the bass voice adding bits to the singing. Doesn't matter, great song.
I also forgot about this track when doing my 1970s' car songs, which was my bad but I skipped the album I have it on for some reason. Sorry.

'Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)' by The Buzzcocks

This song is generally considered a punk track, but the pop-rock stylings that had already hit Blondie's music was evident here as well, and it works. This is a great song with decent lyrics, a song that makes a lot of people agree and go, "Yes, I have."

'I Need A Lover' by Johnny Cougar

Before he was John Mellencamp, he was Johnny Cougar, and this track was a great one. It's basic, straight-ahead, US rock. It is a simple song, but so easy to sing along to and it is a load of fun. Although not dominant, this form of rock was still there in 1978, which is never a bad thing. Oh, and the album version is 2 minutes longer than the single version with an insane intro that makes it even better.

'Is She Really Going Out With Him?' by Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson didn't really hit his straps with the public until the 1980s, but this track was a great one. On the double live album I have, there are three very different versions of this one track, so it shows that Jackson has a real affection for it. And that is understandable. It is a really good song, showing the lyrical mastery that Jackson would continue throughout his career.

'Khe Sanh' by Cold Chisel

One of the best debut singles in rock, Cold Chisel hit the ground running with a song that has become one of the unofficial national anthems of Australia. There is no denying how damn good it is, and the fact they would go on to release some even better tracks beggars the question: Why have they not been a world-wide smash success?

'My Best Friend's Girl' by The Cars

It was a toss-up which Cars song I put in here, but listening to them, this one stuck in my head so much more. But ask me in 2 months and I could well have changed my mind. Still, great song and this is also really well written.

'Old Time Rock And Roll' by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Probably best known nowadays for a Tom Cruise dance scene (seriously – check out the opening of Risky Business), parodied by Heidi Klum for the Guitar Hero game, this was another track that I could change my mind about in a few months. I struggled to decide which of the Bob Seger songs to include, and listening to the Stranger In Town album, this one just caught my attention most. Great song from an awesome album.

'Parisienne Walkways' by Gary Moore

One of Gary Moore's finest songs, a track where his guitar playing just hypnotises with its beauty. A modern blues master who is sadly neglected by the general public, this track should be one of the first points of call to get people into his music. I mean it – beautiful.

'Pump It Up' by Elvis Costello & The Attractions

Another punk-rock act with a hint of the pop-rock stylings to come, this is my favourite Elvis Costello song. I am not an über-fan of his music, though I own a reasonable amount, but this one track was the most played song on my "best of" cassette, so much so that I wore it out. Yes, I enjoy it that much. And it is an awesome work-out song.

'Sultans Of Swing' by Dire Straits

Another incredible debut single, and a perfect way to introduce the world to a guitarist of such perfect touch. Jazz-rock almost in its feel, this song was something very different for 1978, and would lead to the world-straddling Brothers In Arms. Dire Straits were so very good.

'Take A Long Line' by The Angels

One of my favourite Australian bands, this is my very favourite song by The Angels, and I am glad I got to include it on a list. This is close to my favourite song of the year (I couldn't put my finger on an exact favourite), and I can not praise it enough. Awesome, great song.

'Take Me To The River' by Talking Heads

A fantastic cover, possibly the best cover song of the year, led by the drums and thumping bass line before the vocals rise and rise. I first heard this track on the live Stop Making Sense album, but the studio version is just as good. Talking Heads were so underrated by the public at large.

'Werewolves Of London' by Warren Zevon

Another of the very best songs of the year, Warren Zevon's fantastic lyrical sensibilities are at the fore, and the piano gives such an iconic theme that it has cropped out in many other songs over the years. I like everything about this song, and it is a song that is one of my personal most pervasive ear-worms every time I hear it.

'What A Fool Believes' by The Doobie Brothers

It surprised me to learn a few years ago that this was a cover, but only sort of. It's confusing, and it involves Kenny Loggins, but that does not take away from this version with its vocal harmonies and easy listening, AOR sound that would stick around through much of the 80s before really killed off in the 90s. Shame. Sometimes this sort of music was really good to mellow out to.

'Women In Uniform' by Skyhooks

And we come to a third track that could have been my favourite of the year. I like a lot of Skyhooks' songs, though not everything they released. This, however, is the band at its best. Shirley Strachan's voice is at its absolute peak here and the instrumentation shows the band at their very best. And Iron Maiden's cover a few years later was the first Iron Maiden album (12" single) I bought. Awesome track.

'Wuthering Heights' by Kate Bush

And we finish with one of the best female singers of the late 70s, into the 80s and even into the 90s. Again, I did not like everything she has produced, but this track just struck me and stood out, based on the central love story of the titular book. When I studied the book in high school, the song made more sense to me, and made me enjoy it all the more. Bush's voice is superb. Nothing more needs to be said.

So, a long list, but a surprisingly good year for music. Turning 42, the Douglas Adams number, is important for a number of people, and I hope for those hitting that age this year, this will help make their celebration a fun one. If not, I hope you have enjoyed the 1978 playlist, and have had it blaring around the place while you go about your regular daily activities.

Thanks for reading!
1978, songs, rock, pop

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